“HydroSense won the grand prize at the inaugural Environmental Innovation Challenge in April 2009 with a water-usage monitoring technology that screws onto a single valve in a home and can detect water use down to each specific toilet, shower, and faucet,” says Jon Froehlich, a PhD student in computer science. “This type of highly granular monitoring data can fundamentally shift how households, utilities, and policy makers think about and understand water consumption.”
After winning the UW EIC, Froehlich and his student team of engineers and computer scientists entered the UW Business Plan Competition, adding MBAs from the Foster School of Business to the team to help refine the HydoSense business model and investment pitch. One of 90 teams at the outset of the event, they made it to the Final Round of the competition, winning a $5,000 prize and the $2,500 Best Clean-Tech Idea award.
“Our success generated a lot of visibility, and we received queries from a number of potential investors and acquirers,” Froehlich said. “The HydroSense research team is led by UW Professor Shwetak Patel, and I’m one of two graduate students on the project. Within about six months, the UW TechTransfer office negotiated a licensing deal, and the HydroSense technology was acquired as part of a larger energy portfolio by Belkin International earlier this year. We went from being a research idea to being bought by a major international company that has the resources to commercialize HydroSense on a massive scale. Now that’s impact!”
For Belkin International’s acquisition of HydroSense/Zensi, see news release.
UW Foster School of Business undergraduates—Joyita Banerjee, Kaitlin Johnson, Derrick Nation and Jeremy Supinski—won the Global Business Case Competition for their analysis of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. The business case, written by Foster School Professor Suresh Kotha, focused on the Boeing 787 production problems and identifying future directions at Boeing.
“The Foster team did a great job of identifying the issues of the past and creating solutions for the short term. The team then really focused on how to create stronger opportunities in markets using Boeing’s existing and new competitive advantages, recognizing that Boeing has increased its competitive advantages with the trials and tribulations of the 787,” said Rick McPherson, Foster School management lecturer and the UW team’s advisor.
This team was one of four teams that made the final round along with students from National University of Singapore, Copenhagen Business School, and a mixed global team consisting of a four students from universities around the world (US, Hong Kong, Spain and Singapore). Undergraduate finalists presented to a panel of corporate judges, including the finance director of the Boeing 787 project.
Judges commented that many of the student presentations—in addition to the winning UW Foster School team—were on par or better than those by leading consultants and experienced professionals. And the students pulled their analyses together in a mere 48 hours.
Most of us know about “redlining,” the historic practice of disinvestment by banks, insurance companies, and other institutions of communities of color and low income people. In the 60’s and 70’s, there were a flurry of corrective actions at the national level, such as the 1968 Fair Housing Act and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act.
The concept of “greenlining” was invented to turn redlining on its head by reinvesting in low-income, minority and disabled communities. A multi-ethnic Greenlining Coalition was formed in California in the mid-1970’s. In 1993, they established the Greenlining Institute, a multi-ethnic public policy research and advocacy center. The Institute’s programs range from leadership training to policy advocacy to a Green Assets program supporting sustainable businesses in communities of color.
A recent Green Assets publication, Greening Our Neighborhoods: a Carbon Metric for All, makes a case for block-by-block “whole house” energy retrofits that target low-income neighborhoods that can benefit the most from energy savings. In the process, jobs are created and carbon is reduced. Their case study of 36 homes in Census Tract of Richmond, California documented significant energy and economic benefits from a range of weatherization, conservation and appliance replacement actions.
Funds becoming available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for energy retrofits and green programs can benefit the triple bottom line for natural, economic and social environments. Organizations like the Greenlining Institute are working to position businesses and communities of color to access these opportunities. Their experience and business model offers promising lessons for emerging businesses in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.
Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.
On March 13, 2010 the minority-owned restaurant Tempero do Brasil received its final recommendations and a few accounting tools from undergraduate business consultants assigned to help the Seattle restaurant improve its bottom line. The students and their advisors were working with Tempero as part of the UW Foster School Business and Economic Development Center’s annual winter quarter Multicultural Marketing and Business Development class.
In this last installment of our video series following the students, the team members detail in real business terms how Tempero’s business can be improved. The teams had a bevy of advisors over the quarter project from Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company; PNC Mortgage; and the international communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton.
“It’s like a science fair on steroids.” That comment by judge and venture capitalist Loretta Little (of WRF Capital) captured the essence of the University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge. 19 student teams from 7 Washington state universities and colleges met in Seattle on April 1 to pitch clean-tech, energy-saving business ideas and prototypes to more than 100 judges, venture capitalists, angel investors, professors and business leaders. Watch video highlights.
Grand prize = $10,000
A team of University of Washington engineers with a business called EnVitrum won the $10,000 grand prize for their innovative glass recycling and green building technology that converts glass into bricks that are stronger and cheaper than masonry and have a dual purpose of cultivating plants.
Second place + honorable mentions = $12,500
Second place with $5,000 went to Triangle Energy (a University of Washington team consisting of two Foster MBA students, one UW doctoral student in mechanical engineering, one UW doctoral student in biochemistry and one UW chemical engineering undergraduate) who created a mobile bioreactor that converts solid biomass into synthesis gas for energy use. Three honorable mention awards of $2,500 each went to interdisciplinary teams of engineering and business students: NanoWAVE (North Seattle Community College) created an energy-efficient, cost-effective LED lighting alternative for growing plants in nurseries, greenhouses and indoor gardens; iDriveSmart (University of Washington) created software that helps predict and encourage fuel-efficient driving; and Idyll Energy Solutions (Seattle Pacific University) created a solution to the idle, wasted energy of household electronics.